Poder Conjugation: Present Progressive & Imperfect Subjunctive

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

'Poder' means 'can' or 'to be able to.' In this lesson we study its conjugation in the present progressive and the imperfect subjunctive. Learn how to use this verb to talk about unreal situations and hypotheses.

If You Could Do Anything, What Would It Be?

Where would you go if you could go anywhere? What would you do if you could be invisible for one day? Dreaming is free! Let's talk about unreal and hypothetical situations for a while in this lesson. To do this, we'll need the conjugation of the verb poder (pronounced: poh-DEHR), which means 'can' or 'to be able to.'

Keep reading to learn its present progressive forms, and its conjugation and uses in the imperfect subjunctive.

Translation: Can, to be able to.
can

Present Progressive of Poder

We use the present progressive to say what someone is doing at the very moment of speaking. The present progressive consists of two parts:

  1. The present tense of the verb estar.
  2. The present participle of poder, which is irregular (pudiendo).

Take a look at the result:

VERB: poder (poh-DEHR) - can/to be able to

Subject Pronoun Present
Progressive
Pronunciation Translation
yo estoy pudiendo (ehs-TOY
poo-DYEHN-doh)
I am being able to
estás pudiendo (ehs-TAHS
poo-DYEHN-doh)
you are being able to
él/ella
usted
está pudiendo (ehs-TAH
poo-DYEHN-doh)
he/she is being able to -
you (formal) are being able to
nosotros/
nosotras
estamos pudiendo (ehs-TAH-mohs
poo-DYEHN-doh)
we are being able to
vosotros/
vosotras
estáis pudiendo (ehs-TIYS
poo-DYEHN-doh)
you all are being able to
ellos/ellas
ustedes
están pudiendo (ehs-TAHN
poo-DYEHN-doh)
they are being able to
you all are being able to

Using the Present Progressive

We normally use the present progressive to talk about situations that are happening at the very moment of speaking. However, we rarely use the verb poder in this tense in Spanish. It doesn't sound natural for a native speaker to say Estoy pudiendo or Estamos pudiendo. We would simply use the present tense instead (puedo, podemos), which translates as ''I can'', ''we can'', etc.

So now you are able to recognize its forms, but you won't really need to use them in daily life conversations.

Imperfect Subjunctive of Poder

The subjuntive is a set of verbal forms we use to express subjective (rather than factual) information, including wishes, hope or hypotheses.

To form the imperfect subjunctive follow these steps:

  1. Use the irregular stem pudie-.
  2. Add the two possible set of endings to this stem.

Note: The imperfect subjunctive is the only tense that allows two possible conjugations (-RA and -SE). You can use them indistinctly. Check out the table below.

VERB: poder (poh-DEHR) - can/to be able to

Subject
Pronoun
Imperfect
Subjunctive
Pronunciation Translation
yo pudiera/
pudiese
(poo-DYEH-rah/
poo-DYEH-seh)
I could
pudieras/
pudieses
(poo-DYEH-rahs/
poo-DYEH-sehs)
you could
él/ella
usted
pudiera/
pudiese
(poo-DYEH-rah/
poo-DYEH-seh)
he/she could
you (formal) could
nosotros/
nosotras
pudiéramos/
pudiésemos
(poo-DYEH-rah-mohs/
poo-DYEH-seh-mohs)
we could
vosotros/
vosotras
pudierais/
pudieseis
(poo-DYEH-riys/
poo-DYEH-says)
you all could
ellos/ellas
ustedes
pudieran/
pudiesen
(poo-DYEH-rahn/
poo-DYEH-sehn)
they could
you all could

Note: Only Spaniards use the form vosotros/as when addressing a group of people in an informal situation. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries, everyone uses the form ustedes.

Uses & Examples of Poder in the Imperfect Subjunctive

Let's take a look at all the possible uses of this verb in the imperfect subjunctive.

Unreal Situations & Hypotheses

Use this tense to talk about imaginative or hypothetical situations. You can introduce your sentences with:

  • Si (If)
  • Imagina que (Imagine that)

Nira and her friends talk about what they'd do if everything were possible. Let's see what they say.

Nira: Si pudieran elegir un superpoder, ¿cuál sería? (If you (all) could choose a superpower, what would it be?)

Tania: Si pudiese elegir, me gustaría hacerme invisible cuando quisiera. (If I could choose, I'd like to make myself invisible when I wanted to.)

David: Imagina que pudiéramos teletransportarnos. (Imagine that we could teleport.) Ese sería el mejor superpoder. (That would be the best superpower.) ¿Y tú, Nira? (And you, Nira?)

Nira: Si pudiera elegir un superpoder, sería volar. (If I could choose a superpower, that'd be flying.)

What about yourself? ¿Qué superpoder te gustaría tener si pudieras elegir? (What superpower would you like to have if you could choose?)

Translation: What would your superpower be if you could choose?
superpoder

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